Thursday, January 13, 2022

The Story of God | Embracing the Body We're Given


Exploring and Exercising the Purpose of Our Body

How are you approaching eating right now? How are you approaching exercise? Is it from a posture of gratitude and hope, or fear and concern?

I admit, I've approached eating and exercising both ways. And as I begin this new year with regular pain in my left hip, back, and neck (The Body Keeps the Score as
Bessel van der Kolk M.D. reminds us), I'm wondering what attitude and approach I will faithfully walk in as I consider how I will embrace the gift of the body I've been given.

What is the story my body is telling me? 
And what story do I live by in relation to my body?

In preparation for all the ways we will approach our bodies this year, for those who are curious, I want to provide you with an overview of how good it is that God gave us bodies, and the story we get to live into with Him when we receive our bodies as a gift (instead of a burden, curse, or identity to worship). 

Before reading more, I invite you to consider these four questions:

1. How does God reveal what He is like when I eat, exercise, and/or train,  by myself and with others? (Creation / Identity) 
2. Where do I experience brokenness with my body? Where do I see brokenness in others with their bodies? (Crisis / Problem) 
3. When do I see reflections of God's work of redemption in myself and others as I eat, exercise, etc.? (Covenant Community + Christ / Promises, People, Redemption) 
4. How do I sense that eating / exercising / training is part of God's greater work in the world? (Church / Purpose)

The Story of God in Relation to Our Bodies

Creation (Identity): God created human beings, male and female, in His image with hearts, souls, minds, and bodies to love Him, love each other, and love His creation with all of who we are. So we eat and drink and work(out) to honor the gift from God of being embodied souls, called to be His Kingdom representatives on earth who delight in beauty, goodness, and fulfillment.

Crisis (Problem): Instead of receiving our bodies as gifts in the joyful, selfless life of loving and serving God, each other, and creation, we look in the mirror and begin to worship our bodies or overly criticize the one God gave us. We distort what He has said is good, and the beauty of our bodies becomes the ultimate thing we think about each day more than God and His Good News for the world, leading us to idolize the image He's given us. Beauty becomes vanity and health becomes hurtful to those who don't hold our ideals or look (eat, exercise, etc.) the way we think is best. More and more, we sacrifice God's glory and others good for working out for our own glory and self-assurance as the top goal. In this diminished glory, we live in fear of losing the image we want to portray of ourselves because we have settled for our ultimate value being found in how fit we are, how young and strong we look, and how good we feel about ourselves.

Covenant Community (Promises & People): Though our bodies became idols, God in His mercy promises to restore our beautiful image in Him among people from all nations, shapes, and sizes. In the face of obesity, disease, abuse, and muscle deterioration, God promises to renew us to be a people who live for the life of the world, blessed to bless others, who find our ultimate value in Him even if we are injured, physically handicapped or ill, differently abled, or unable to achieve what others around us consider to be beautiful and strong. He even promises us a Messiah and Savior who will not meet our standards of beauty (i.e. Isaiah 53:2: ... He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. ... ) who will love us and serve us when we are at our ugliest in body, heart, soul, and mind, even unto death so that we can receive again that all of who we are is ultimately valued by God. He invites us to join in His new creation, one in which the body, soul, mind, and heart are all engaged to bring forth His goodness in the world, and to recognize true beauty where others miss it.

Christ (Redemption Through Cross + Crown): Jesus is the embodied God, joined with His good creation, fulfilling all God's promises, and the firstborn of the new creation breaking in, in which heaven and earth are reconciled in His own body, fully God and fully man. He lives His life among people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and cultures, and He takes on all our shame and guilt even as we nail His body to the cross. He set His heart, soul, mind, and body with focused discipline to endure the ultimate test of strength, sacrifice, and physical exertion, even to the point of sweating blood, before the cross for God's glory and for our good so that we could be set free from the hellish life of self-focus, self-pity, self-idolatry, and self-abuse. And in His resurrection body, our ultimate hope is found in what He can give us again with Him, new bodies we can't create or manipulate, but openly receive with grace when His new creation is made complete in us and around us upon His final return.

Church (Purpose + Partnership): In Christ, we are the people of every size, shape, color, culture, and types of bodies, male and female, reborn by the Spirit to live in the embodied image of Christ. We get to enjoy our bodies and work our bodies, not for security, pride, or confidence, but as participants with God, using the gifts He's given to help others capture a glimpse of Jesus, the Servant King and embodied God, who loves them. If "He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him," and yet He was the most glorious human being to ever live in how He used His body for worship of God and for our good, then we can see beauty differently and look for it in various places and people. We can join Him in His discipline of a cross-shaped life that honors what God has given each of us without idolizing our shape or form, willing to lay our bodies down sacrificially for the life of others (ex. less food or less workouts for more life with others, better food and more workouts to honor the body God has given us to live longer with others, etc.). We aren't crushed when our bodies change, and old age doesn't make us afraid because our ultimate value and dream isn't found in how we look, or feel, or attempt to be like someone else, or be forever young on our own. This is part of the freedom Christ has set us free for that we get to share with others with the peace and joy of the Spirit.

(New) Creation (Hope + Rest): With God, we will get to be forever young, but in a way far beyond our limiting goals for our bodies today. We make the most of these days, where we eat and workout, and who we eat and work out with, knowing the days are but a vapor, like the breath we expell and the sweat that drips off of us that is quickly forgotten. King Jesus is coming again, and our hearts, souls, minds, and bodies need to be redeemed and trained in heavenly practice for this Day of the Lord. And yet God is the God of the little details of the here and now, who delights to redeem and fulfill moments at the gym. So we honor beauty in women and men we get to be friends and family with, encouraging each other, receiving a rightly ordered view of God, women and men, and creation, knowing the glimpses of freedom, fulfillment, and goodness now are just teasers for what God has in store for us who rest our ultimate hope and purpose in Him.

Run the Race (Hebrews 12:1-2) by New Branch Studio

+ Key Verses 
1 Timothy 4:8-10, MSG: Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart. This is why we’ve thrown ourselves into this venture so totally. We’re banking on the living God, Savior of all men and women, especially believers. 
Hebrews 12:1-3, MSG: Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame ... And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again ... That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Recent posts on overviews of the Story of God found in the Bible:

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